For all the thousands of books that have been written about religion, few until this one have attempted to examine it scientifically: to ask why - and how - it has shaped so many lives so strongly. Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life?
Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Daniel C. Dennett charts religion’s evolution from “wild” folk belief to “domesticated” dogma. Not an antireligious creed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.
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Great Reader Actually Enhances A Great Book!
Insightful, Accessible and ... Spell-binding (not to be too cheeky)
Thoroughly, this book hits the points so often touched upon by his contemporaries (M. Shermer, J. Campbell, K. Armstrong, S. Pinker, etc.) without getting too off-topic or muddled down in details. Colorful analogies and examples abound.
I am always wary of readers compromising a beloved author's book. Here, Holland (who already sounds quite a bit like Dennett) speaks with personality and style that capture Dennett's wit and adds the punch it deserves. A+
This book attempts to explain religion, not scold it. No play for emotions here, as in the tomes of his fellow "horsemen" (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens), the mood is that of a philosopher, calm, serene and much more respectful. (not that that's much of a competition) This is, perhaps, the best of the four for a believer taking their first skeptical view.
Recommended follow-up/ companion audio-book:The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. (read by another talented reader Arthur Morey).
- Don Caliente
Some content gems but general tone disappointing
A lot of the content was interesting, which kept me reading despite the fact that the author seems overly defensive and even a bit contemptuous at times. As an atheist, I was hoping for a very neutral look at religion in a scientific context, but Dennet's anti-religious bias is just as pronounced, and just as annoying, as "objective" views written by the devoutly religious.
Some interesting concepts were explored - such as the difference between the belief in god vs. the belief in the belief in god, and examples of religion as being evolutionarily advantageous or deleterious. The least interesting parts are definitely his passages defending himself, defending his book, and defending his field. He seems to assume the reader is either a religious fanatic reading his book with flaring indignation or a fellow religion-basher gleefully poking fun at all religious ideas. I was hoping for a more academic approach, perhaps looking at the role of religion in various societies both historically and currently. This book is more about how and why people believe the things they do, and the author's judgments on it.